From high fashion to pared back, makeup artist Kelly Cornwell can create almost any cosmetic look her clients dream up, and she has some VERY prestigious clients (think Vogue, Vanity Fair, Cerutti and the likes of Elizabeth Hurley and Emily Blunt). Her vast knowledge bank and flair is in demand, and as Beauty Director for Wonderland she’s at the forefront of cutting edge beauty developments and the eye responsible for many a boundary pushing shoot. As well as promoting innovation, she is a firm believer in a holistic approach to beauty, hence her role as makeup artist expert for ELEMIS . We quizzed her on how to make it in the beauty business, what makes great makeup and what she keeps in her personal kit while jetting around the globe...
Get The Gloss: How did you get started in the world of makeup artistry? Did you have a mentor or particular source of inspiration?
Kelly Cornwell: I started my makeup journey as soon as I left school. I received a scholarship to attend the London College of Fashion at the age of 16, to do a two year full time course in Fashion Styling for Hair and Makeup. At the time I loved Kevyn Aucoin; he had some great books out and it was the 90s. From my point of view there wasn’t much happening in makeup (it was all grunge!), so his glamour was a source of inspiration. Books were a big thing when I started as there was no internet, so you couldn’t Google someone. If a client had a particular look in mind from an era you had to know what that was, and the only way to know was to look at lots of books. I then assisted various makeup artists for eight years, completing a two year full time assisting job with the great Linda Cantello, before finally signing to Premier Hair and Makeup at 26 years of age. I’ve now been with them for 12 years!
GTG: What skills do you think are essential for being a great makeup artist, both practical and from a ‘people’ point of view?
KC: Skills are obviously important, colour matching and application in particular, but I did learn early on that makeup artistry is also about good taste and communicating with people. You need to know how to read people, which is hard as what a natural look may be in your eyes could mean something completely different in somebody else’s.
GTG: Would you say that you have a signature style? Is there a makeup look that you’re known for or particularly love?
KC: I feel I do have a style, I’m a BIG skin ‘base’ girl. I always like skin to be clean and glowing even if it’s a matte look; it has to be clean and well prepared. If you look at my work the skin is always alive. A splash of colour also works wonders.
GTG: What has been your most exciting or unusual job to date?
KC: There have been lots of exciting jobs, one that is special to me was working with Lee McQueen, on one of the last shoots he did, a shoot with Nick Knight and McQueen for his campaign and a video for his last show. The video was played while the show took place, and it featured model Raquel Zimmerman alongside lots of real snakes. It was an amazing experience, but sad in hindsight as it was to be his last.
The best place I have been has to be Alaska for an advertising job. I saw the Northern Lights and the surroundings are breathtaking.
GTG: What are your personal beauty must-haves?